Middle Cyclone (Anti-)
You'd think the well of country-twang guitar chord permutations would have long ago run dry. Yet Neko Case consistently manages to dig something new from the reservoir, sweetening it with rustic themes of nature, animals and alternating violence/calm of weather. "Marais La Nuit," a 30-minute field recording of a bog, all swirling cricket and frog chirps, cements Case's intentions while also making for an understated, hypnotic coda to the album. The other 14 tracks stem from the same creative soil as 2006's brilliant Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, but are a bit more upbeat. Case still knows how to write a heartbreaker. "Polar Nettles" is classic yearning Americana. "Prison Girls" has dark hints of Nick Cave. And, of course, Case's haunting vocals and earthy harmonies are still instantly recognizable as hers alone.